ticketsA consultation on fees under the Licensing Act 2003

The Home Office are consulting on the regulations that will introduce locally-set fees under the Licensing Act 2013. Fees for licensing were set nationally in 2005 and have not been revised since then. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 introduced a power for the Home Secretary to prescribe in regulations that the fee levels should be set by individual licensing authorities.

The full Consultation which contains detailed information about the proposals can be found on the Government website. This short briefing summarises the main issues that relate to community buildings and is ACRE’s interpretation of the consultation. We recommend that time is taken to read the full document. The briefing also assumes that those reading it are familiar with licensing legislation. The deadline for the Consultation is 10 April 2014.

 

1. The current situation

Under the Licensing Act 2003 (Fees) Regulations 2005 Village halls and similar community buildings do not pay fees for a Premises Licence that only covers regulated entertainment. If hall committees include the sale of alcohol in their Premises Licence, because they are selling alcohol at social and fundraising functions on a regular basis, the fee is based on the national non-domestic rateable (NNDR) value of the premises. Alternatively hall committees and hirers of the hall can use a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) for which a fee of £21 is charged. TENs are limited to 12 per premises per year resulting in an annual cost of £252. A number of village halls may have a social club with a Club Premises Certificate which can cost up to £350.

2. The proposals

The introduction of locally set fees will mean significant changes in the way that village halls and similar community buildings licence their building for the sale of alcohol, as well as increased cost.

Local authorities will only be able to charge fees based on cost recovery. No premises or activities will be able to be exempted from fees but local authorities will not be able to charge fees for processes or activities for which fees are not already chargeable.

It should also be noted that Government policy states that fees must avoid cross- subsidisation. This is where one type of fee payer is charged at higher than cost-recovery so that another class can be charged less.

The consultation is considering the following issues:

  • The future of the use of fee bands based on the NNDR. See chapter 5 of the consultation document.
  • Whether the basis on which fee amounts are determined should include discretionary mechanisms to apply different fee amounts depending on whether or not premises are (a) authorised to provide licensable activities until a late terminal hour and/or (b) used exclusively or primarily for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises. See chapter 6 of the consultation document.
  • If licensing authorities are able to apply different fee amounts and whether they should have further discretion to exclude certain classes of premises from liability for the higher amount.
  • Government intends to set a cap for each fee category. See chapter 7 of the consultation document for detailed information.
  • Whether there should be a single annual fee date. See chapter 9 of the consultation document.
  • The transition process to locally set fees

 

3. Impacts on village halls and similar community buildings

Removal of the exemption for fees for a Premises Licence

Village halls and similar community buildings will no longer be exempt from fees for a premises licence for regulated entertainment. However, some halls will not need to have a Premises Licence as many activities are in the process of, or have been, removed from the scope of licensing activity. No licence is now required for the following activities to the extent that they take place between 08:00-23:00 on any day:

  • a performance of a play in the presence of any audience of no more than 500 people;
  • an indoor sporting event in the presence of any audience of no more than 1,000 people;
  • performances of dance in the presence of any audience of no more than 500 people; and
  • live music, where the live music comprises:
  • a performance of unamplified live music;
  • a performance of live amplified music in a workplace with an audience of no more than 200 people; or
  • a performance of live music on alcohol licensed premises which takes place in the presence of an audience of no more than 200 people, at a time when the premises are open

Legislation has recently been laid in Parliament to remove the requirement for the exhibition of film from regulated entertainment.

The cost of a TEN will increase considerably

Evidence provided to Government by local authorities indicates that the average fee for a TEN based on full cost recovery is £80. ACRE is aware that an increase of this nature would have a considerable impact on village halls and community groups. The cost of TENs for the year could rise to £960 as opposed to the current £252. The consultation indicates that a TEN will be capped at £100.

At this stage it is not possible to predict what the resulting costs could be; it may be that hall committees will need to consider whether it will be more cost effective to apply for a Premises Licence including alcohol.

Community and Ancillary Sales Notice (CAN) – An alternative to a TEN?

Government also intends to introduce a new form of authorisation, a community and ancillary sales notice (CAN). The CAN will reduce the burden on community groups and small businesses that sell small amounts of alcohol alongside other activities. CAN users will simply be able to notify their licensing authority, alongside payment of a small fee, that they will be selling small amounts of alcohol in low risk environments over the course of the year. Detailed information about the CAN is not yet available and we do not know the level of the ‘small fee’.

What is the cost of a Premises Licence that includes the sale of alcohol likely to be?

Fees will be set at the discretion of the local authority depending on the outcome of this consultation. This consultation document is considering the fee structure; it will then be up to the local authority to set the fee levels within that structure.

The Government proposes abandoning the use of the current system of NNDR bands because there is no evidence that premises in the higher bands relate to higher costs to the licensing authority.

Government has decided against using a classification of premises and are proposing basing the fees structure on the following criteria.

Whether premises are or are not:

a. authorised to provide licensable activities until a late terminal hour and/or

b. used exclusively or primarily for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises

 

ACRE believes that most halls currently fall in Band A and pay a fee of £190 for a Premises Licence that includes alcohol. The estimated main fee under a new regime is £683 (see page 34 of the Impact Assessment for further explanation). This could be increased or decreased according to the criteria above (see 6.17 and 6.18 on page 21 for further information).

Action

Rural Community Councils and village hall management committees should consider the 29 questions in the consultation document and respond direct to the Home Office or send comments to d.clarke@acre.org.uk by 4 April 2014 to be included in ACRE’s response.

Village hall management committees can also contact their local Rural Community Council to discuss their concerns.

Please contact your local MP if you have concerns about the possible increase in fees for licensing your building. This will enable your MP to speak with the Minister responsible and/or be informed should he/she become involved in discussions about the issues.

Deborah Clarke

Rural Community Buildings Officer, ACRE

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